New York has just Allowed Human Composting for the Departed

Anne Spollen
Human composting is a new way to reduce your final carbon footprint.Photo byMayron OliveiraonUnsplash

In an ongoing effort to keep with environmentally friendly practices, Kathy Hochul, New York’s governor, has signed legislation allowing terramation, more commonly known as human composting, after death. This decision now allows New Yorkers access to a green burial in which their bodies fully compost back to the earth. Terramation advocates argue the process is both environmentally beneficial and more economical than conventional burial, with the body fully transforming in about seven weeks.

The idea is not as shocking as it may sound to some. The remains of the deceased must first be taken to a cemetery corporation that has been certified as an organic reduction facility. Once there, the body is placed into a reusable, partially open container. Appropriate bedding such as alfalfa, wood chips or straw are used so microbes can begin the process of composting. The container is sealed airtight and humidity levels and temperature inside the vessel are closely monitored. Over the course of about seven weeks, the container is rotated regularly. From one human body, about 35 bags of nutrient dense material is produced and can then be used as fertilizer.

Since 2019, New York is the sixth state to accommodate this burial method. Washington was the first state to allow terramation, followed by Colorado and Oregon in 2021, then Vermont and California in 2022. Over the summer, A382 passed both New York assemblies.

Michelle Menter, manager at Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve in central New York, stated, "Every single thing we can do to turn people away from concrete liners and fancy caskets and embalming, we ought to do and be supportive of."

Others state that people want a burial in harmony with how they lived their lives. Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, a Seattle funeral home that participates in human composting, says, “Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses a lot of land and has a carbon footprint.” She adds, "“For a lot of folks being turned into soil that can be turned to grow into a garden or tree is pretty impactful.”

While the process is undoubtedly a greener method of burial, there are opposing views. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes the practice and asked its followers to persuade Hochul to veto the bill. According to the Catholic Courier, the organization feels terramation “does not provide the respect due to bodily remains.”

In a statement, Dennis Poust, executive director of the organization, said "a process that is perfectly appropriate for returning vegetable trimmings to the earth is not necessarily appropriate for human bodies.”

Terramation proponents believe this burial option will take some time for the general public to get used to, but it presents another option for those who want to reduce their endmost carbon footprint.

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New York City writer interested in urban concerns, lifestyle topics, human interest, all areas of wellness, and social issues. Published novelist and essayist.

Staten Island, NY

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